The Felonious PhD.

White Collar Female PhD. Felon, Prison Camp, Re-Entry, Criminal Justice Reform. Women, Lesbian

Happy 15th Birthday……..Sonny!!!

I have never missed one of my son’s birthdays until now. It is truly one of the most difficult moments for me to think that he will celebrate, take pictures, create wonderful memories, and I will be absent. Prior to self-surrendering to Victorville Federal Prison Camp, I sat with my Public Defender while she calculated the period she thought I would be gone. Her calculations with “good time” and 6 months “halfway house” services came to 22 months. In calculating my time away from my son I began categorizing the events that are important in his life that I was going to be absent from during my incarceration. I knew that along with his entire sophomore school and football year I would be missing his 15th birthday.

Mothers at the camp do many things to get through the regular days here, and they also find ways to get through the holidays and birthdays in here. I know it is a day I will not get back and I also know that it will pass; but as I sit in this visceral, non-productive, irreverent, paternalistic environment doing absolutely nothing of value for myself, my community, or my son, I can not help but continue to question the motivation of our US Judicial System. I am missing my son’s birthday and I am acutely aware of the fact that most people think, “If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime.” To that I respond that regardless of the “truth,” our wonderful, resourceful Country has many alternatives to incarcerating, non-violent, low-level, first time offending women, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters.

There is no real intellectual reason for me to be absent from my son’s birthday or any other important parental responsibility that I have always attended to throughout his life. I mean, if a man can punch his wife, render her unconscious and still be free to harm again, that begs me to question why am I here? We all should be asking these questions. Who is privileged to get second chances and why?

The wonderful thing is that my son will have a great birthday even without me. He has an incredible support system and people who love him. We are very fortunate. Now as I approach the second half of this unreal journey in prison, I will have to beg, pray, and attempt to convince the staff here that I need halfway house services so that I can re-enter my community and my son’s life sooner than later.

Over the past 11 months I have learned that the system has no motivation to encourage or enhance mine or any of the women’s ability to re-enter successfully. That will be bad for business, so to speak. There is no fiscal motivation for decarcerating us, there is only monetary motivation for keeping us incarcerated as long as possible, we are numbers and bodies. So re-entry and recidivism will never be a real priority until the Government re-thinks and restructures its financial incentives to the BOP.

Today, I am thankful that I have a son who is intelligent, caring and resilient. He has not lost himself in this crisis and I have to make sure I follow his lead. Happy 15th Birthday, Son. I am so lucky to be your mom.

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Today is a Tough Day….I am Going With It…..

As the endless month goes by, I have occasionally awakened in a mindset that puts me in intense, extreme and complete opposition to everything that is going on here.  The past few nights I have experienced dreams in regards to being in Reno, Nevada and being watched by the Feds.  Whenever I begin my morning with the absurdity of my reality and it seeps deeply in, even into my subconscious, I have a difficult time shaking it off and mindfully redirecting my thoughts.

Today my 2 mile walk was, once again, fueled by my inability to be available for my son.  I am taking the tragedy of being an absent parent seriously and will forever remind all…..this is a fundamentally UN American act and I feel like a terrorist who has been banished to Git-mo. ….except I have not harmed ANYONE.  So, needless to say, I am beyond dramatic and feel so incontrovertibly abused by the system because I am separated from my number one responsibility in the world….my son.

As the Government is politically posturing and advocating for keeping immigrant families together, they are on the other hand destroying my American family. And nobody, absolutely nobody, discusses, boycotts, videotapes or reports about our white-collar, non-violent, spotless backgrounded, mothers’ plight.  My American family is facing a tragedy also.  I feel for all kids who are without their mom.  Today as I sit subjugated in this soulless, paternalistic, irreverent environment, my heart cries out to my own son.  I love you Sonny!  This will all be over eventually.

I am thankful that my son has a foundation of love and is a big, loving, caring soul.  I am also eternally grateful that he has other caring family members to reassure him, guide him, love him, provide for him, nurture him, and reassure him that he will be okay and this too shall pass!

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A Grown Woman and a Bunk Bed….

Where does a 49-year-old woman begin when discussing the perils of sleeping in a bunk bed?

Quite often I find myself cracking up at how uncomplicated, neurotic and comical my life is right now.  A few nights ago, I decided I was going to climb on top of my bed and listen to my music and read.  Yes! I said climb up to my top bunk!  As I was sitting up there in my BOP shorts, BOP t-shirt, and BOP men’s socks that are way to big, oh, and my green beanie because it’s cold up there, I looked over to Ms. B.B. and said, “Look at me!!”  I was swinging my short legs over the side of my top bunk looking like a 12-year-old boy!  We cracked up!

As much as this experience is frustrating and disheartening, it is equally funny as heck!  At time, this experience is so unreal and ridiculous!  I just keep reminding myself that I have been through worse, or at least that is what I tell myself.  Then, I remind myself of how so many of my foster kids, and kids who didn’t come to me, have endured and overcome similar and even worse experiences.  Then I channel my inner Cynthia, Adrian, Max, Johnny, Daniella, Eddie, Todd, Davonne, Brandon, Richy, and Nick and all the others.  I embrace the PTSD and chaos that my nephew Dee overcame, and I think of his sister and brother.  I honestly incorporate everything I have told them over the years about no whining and blaming others because nobody cares.  I remind myself that I have to define my experience and share it in a way that will encourage and uplift others.  As I have used with them in the past, I will definitely rely on my sense of humor because sometimes laughter is the only healthy alternative.

I am so thankful for my kids.  They have shown me that I have to practice what I have preached!

So, every  night, after 9:30 pm count, I climb my grown woman butt up to the top bunk and say thank you that another day has ended!

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Life On Pause…..

Every Sunday I try to create a peaceful, positive, and cognizant space in my heart and mind so that I don’t lose sight of who I am and my intrinsic purpose.  I also try to prepare myself for another week that is completely out of my control.

Often, I have conversations with my bunkee who is also intelligent, driven, and a once successful business woman.  Her common theme during many of our conversations has been about how her life is on pause.  I gather that having some element of control over what happens to her in BOP custody  and utilizing the word “Pause” allows her some control over what is to come next.

For me, being on pause is a complete waste of time.  As I listen to how this single mother of two boys worked hard to achieve her dream, I become overwhelmed with questions of how can I help women like us once their lives are no longer on pause.

The theoretical formation of living a life on pause can be a bit debilitating.  I was looking at it as if I was viewing a movie and, like I have done many times, I hit the pause button.  Once I returned to viewing the show, was I more or less attentive?  Did I lose excitement after I had paused?  Or, did I just turn it off never to return to view it again?

Life on Pause has happened to many people in our country, not just inmates.  I just know that women who are here for white-collar crimes and who were driven and successful will face a unique situation when reentering their communities.

I want to, once again, be Living Proof that it can be done.  After living my Life on Pause phase, I want to be able to hit the play button and enjoy a happy climax to this story.  I know that if I start there, I can once again help others believe in themselves, even though they are Felons.  We are the new wave of Government Subjugation and we do not have the time to wait for them to once again correct their wrongs.

I am thankful for the hones, open, and sometimes heart-breaking conversations with the women here. It gives me an opportunity to be selfless and attentive to others with challenges and in pain.

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Should I File a Motion with the Judge?….

On almost a daily basis, there are small groups of women discussing their cases, unfair sentences, and disbelief about being stuck in such a non-penetrable system.  I entered this camp prepared to endure my 33 month sentence and all that comes with it.  After bearing witness to what a system could do to me, I just surrendered to being treated unfairly and told myself that I would create a space where I could voice my truth and provide a forum for others who are going through the same traumatic experience as I.

As i listen closely and attentively to these white-collar women’s concerns and questions about how they were treated unfairly, I am beginning to formulate a theory that after they have had an opportunity to come out from the fog of Governmental abuse, they are waking up and saying “HEY!” something is wrong.

Recently a case was heard in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court that is very similar to my case.  The physicians were charged with fraud because they did not physically see the clients, but they did attend care meetings, discussed treatments, goals, and plans.  Actually, that has been general practice up until Medicaid/Medicare changed the rules.  Along with that, the prosecutor based their sentencing on relevant conduct which, in my mind, is Constitutionally wrong.  It says that if you billed one client this way, then every single patient/client billing in that practice/agency has been fraudulent throughout the entire period for which the indictment applies.  Additionally, they can just assign an arbitrary number of dollars which is used to determine a sentence.  Even though they could not prove anything, they can scare and bully people into lying to get a lower sentence.  Well, the ninth circuit vacated the sentence and sent it back for re-sentencing, but realistic numbers have to be used.  So much money wasted by our government!

Now, the question is, should I file a motion to vacate my 33 month sentence?  Many of my Federal Prison Camp “attorneys” say yes I should!  I am going to observe and see what occurs at the sentencing hearing of this particular case and consider the outcome.

If you are interested in the case, the link is located at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/UNITED_STATE_of_AMERICA_Plaintiffapealee_V_ALEXANDER_POPOV_DEFE.

I am so thankful for my Federal Camp “Attorney’s!”  They sure keep life humorous and interesting.  And, they keep me aware!!

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Prisology.org

We are sharing this post from Prisology’s Facebook page hoping you will also pass this information on to everyone you know so the pressure remains on this committee to take action for these necessary reforms!
Prisology
Another delay, everyone. The Senate Judiciary Committee met today, voted on some judicial nominations, and then delayed a vote on the bills. We have received over 20,000 support letters thus far, and will continue to inundate the Committee with your voices. If you have not already done so, please encourage everyone you know to visitwww.prisology.org/action to show support for the reform effort!
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Another Month Gone….

I would like to report to all that I am adapting well and feeling great!  Well, this place has given me an opportunity to develop a new and improved ability to adapt. I have always been able to strategize myself through troubled waters and come out on the other end smiling so don’t think that I don’t still smile a lot, even here! I’m able to smile because this is what I know…this process is temporary and will be tucked so far away into my psyche, in the do not resuscitate file, that I will move on afterwards.

As I walk around the camp observing, engaging, participating, and existing, I can’t help but think about who created this monster.  I want to have a discussion with someone in the D.O.J. (Department of Justice) and ask what the purpose was because if anyone came and spent 2 weeks here, they would leave rubbing, and scratching their head.  Being a program developer, I am sure that, initially, there was a clear purpose and at some point it met the needs of those involved.  I just have to think that way, otherwise, our system is a complete farce.  I am stuck in a system that is about to implode.

The over-crowding here at the camp (the FEMALE, forget the men for a minute) is bursting at the seams!  So much so that it is literally impossible for a competent employee to do their job effectively.  Case loads are high, inmates are not leaving on their correct dates, we are housed in television rooms, I could go on and on.  Like Marvin Gaye, I want to scream, “What’s going on?”

I only have a 33 month sentence, I am saying only not because I think that is a cake walk, because-whew!-it isn’t, but because some of the NON-VIOLENT women here have sentences such as 120 months or 135 months.  I had to sit back and put that into perspective.

People are always asking me what I am going to write about.  I have always wanted to inspire and be uplifting to others, so I do not think that the criminal justice system is the thing I should write about.  Ironically, my bachelors degree is in Criminal Justice.  I once even had aspirations of being an attorney….go figure.  So, I believe in order and rules.  I just do not understand all of the inconsistencies, lies, and the level of erroneous judgments that are upheld in the court of law while the real criminals (those who control the money, wall street, politicians, you get my point) go free.

Anyway, sitting in the camp another day, I can tell you it is not about money on the Government’s end.  Because the way they place non-violent, victim-less “criminals” in the system where it costs on the average $34,000 per year to house a woman with minimal medical needs, it just does not make sense fiscally.  To me, it feels like a system that has run its course and need to be revamped in order to be effective.

Like I have told the women in the unit, that change may not happen when we want it to happen, but change is inevitable.

In the meantime, I smile!

 

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Your Voice and Tone Did Not Match…

There are many safeguards in prison put in place to eliminate identity theft and any other theft.  I suppose this is similar to life on the outside where ideally a store clerk asks for your I.D. when you use your debit card or the need for a PIN to use your ATM card, or the bank monitoring your charges and placing a hold on your account when you’re on vacation and your card is denied because the bank knows that you  live in Nevada but, heaven forbid, you travel away from there without notifying them about spending your own money.  You get the picture!

Well, in prison there are privileges that have high value and the powers that be try to put systems in place to eliminate problems in accessing those privileges fraudulently.  Go figure.  One major commodity here is access to the telephone.  Hopefully you’ve already read about the 300 minutes I used in less than two weeks and have a clear understanding of how precious and valuable those minutes are.  Many people don’t have that type of access because, like many other things at camp, it is expensive.  So, to safeguard the time that those who can afford it have paid for, there is a voice, tone, and PIN recognition system that has to be navigated before an actual call can be made.

In this order, you earn the right to hear your loved one’s voice.  First you enter your PIN, then you say your first and last name in the precise tone you recorded it in on your first day in prison.  It is so crazy.  I am honestly cracking up.  If you do not match the voice and TONE three times, you have to start over.

My counterpart, and laughing partner, LittleJ and I cannot be in the phone area at the same time because we cannot keep from cracking up!  She can never get it right on the first try because we set up our security system on the first day here.  Well, LittleJ was pissed off on our first day.  I have to remind her to use her mad voice when she’s ready to make a call.

This morning it finally happened to me!  My morning voice would not match my first day voice!  So, I decided to come and write this blog before I go back and try again.  Whew!  I guess it is good to know that some things don’t change.  I want to remain prepared for the inconsistencies of life after prison. Being unable to access your own shit causes the same frustration in prison as it does on the outside!

Today, I am thankful for a consistently inconsistent system!

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The First Sunday…

October 20, 2013

Sundays here are no different from Sundays all over the country.  The camp chapel offers every religious service possible.  There is a Catholic service, Latter Day Saints services, Buddhist, and Christian services.  Every spiritual-at least religious-need can be met.

As I sit under the shade covering my familiar table listening to the birds chirp and the chatter from the other women within earshot who are grouped together to discuss God and His Word, I almost forget that I am in a Federal Prison Camp.  That is, until I hear over the loud-speaker, “Inmate number _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , please report to the education department.”  That is when I am abruptly reminded….I AM IN PRISON CAMP!!

The campus is very peaceful though, so I sit and watch a group of women play a card game called Golf.  I was told that soon, I too, will be playing cards, knitting, and crocheting to pass the time.  These day, I am a little afraid to say what I would never do or what will never happen to me.  I won’t even put any of those thoughts into the universe anymore.  Shit, I am here, a federal prisoner in a federal prison camp. A felon!  I never, ever thought that would happen.  So, I will just say, “Time will tell!” For right now, I like spending my ample free time writing, walking the track, and talking to the ladies here.  Their stories are engaging, they are PEOPLE, and while hearing the ridiculousness of some of their experiences doesn’t make me feel any more hopeful, and frankly more disheartened about our punitive system, for the moment, it’s far better than crocheting!

Just stay tuned…

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Fried Chicken Day….

October 17, 2013

I woke up to a bright light at 5:40am.  The correctional officers turn on the lights to let everyone know it is time to rise and shine.  It reminds me of how they depict military barracks operations on television.

Breakfast, for me, consisted of coffee – instant coffee – no yummy hazlenut or vanilla creamer – but it’s not too bad even without that.  From there, I was assigned to work in the laundry which is fine and very familiar to me.  Laundry is nice, quiet, and relaxing.  I spent the morning there, routinely washing, drying and folding, until it was lunch time at ……10:30 am.  Yes, I wrote that correctly.  We eat lunch at 10:30am.  This is definitely a world unto itself.

Today’s menu was a camp favorite-fried chicken.  The line was exceptionally long for that fried chicken.  It reminded me of my time in the college cafeteria where every meal time was critical, lol.  One never missed a meal in college!

After lunch I had to report back to the OIC, Officer In Charge, to see if there was any work I could do.  My status remains at A&O, which means that I have not gone through Administration and Orientation, so I will not be assigned to a job until that is complete. Until then, I volunteer for whatever there is available to do in the moment…..like a day laborer, waiting in line at the union hall. So, until that process is complete,  I need to keep myself busy.  On days like this, I will write from noon to 2pm then go to the gym until 3pm then back to the unit.

As I live and observe this camp I cannot understand how this process is beneficial to me or many of the other women in here.    I will have to continue on my own quest for personal development and find a way to keep my mind stimulated.  I feel like I am already BORED!!

Loving my peeps from afar…..

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